Tuesday 2 December 2014

Gangani Gung-ho

(Nishant Maheshwari is the founder-member of Discover on Wheels,
the bicycling club of Kolkata. He narrates his
first serious and successful DH attempt at Gangani)

Okay…so I had heard lot about downhill biking and had seen many bike movies and videos on DH racing. As much as the idea was alluring, the fear of getting killed was epitome.

Also having an appropriate bike and practising in the local trails was crucial. But unfortunately I had access to none. Calcutta neither has any natural DH trails nor did I have a ready bike to experience the thrill. I still do not have one. In my knowledge to do DH I had to travel to far northeast or upper Bengal which in itself was discouraging as taking leaves form office would be challenging.

However, DH biking was still on my must do list to see if I like it. So when my friend Soumya gave the idea to explore few nearby trails, where DH could be possible, I was game. But my fear still remained because I had a entry-level hardtrail bike and no experience of DH — just a couple of off roadings in East Kolkata wetlands area.

Nevertheless, we started exploring options and decided on our destination — Gangani — our desi canyons — just about 4-5 hours drive from Kolkata. But somehow the plan kept postponing because of my prior commitments in road biking.

Then we saw an online post by one of our more experienced DH rider Prateek Singh who had posted few pictures of his recent visit to the same place.  For me that was a trigger…as someone had been there and done it.

So accompanied by Soumya Chatterjee and Rohan Agarwal, I decided to have a go with my basic frame, no experience, basic mechanical brakes, stock tyres and a 100mm suspension travel. But thankfully I got a sponsored IXS knee pads…which did wonders to my confidence!


From Howrah station, you can board the Rupasi Bangla Express in the morning or the Purulia Express in the afternoon to reach Garbeta station. Buses are also available from Howrah, Kharagpur and Midnapore. Another great option is to put on your ride in the car rack and drive it to the spot. Gangani is a 4-hour drive from Calcutta. From Garbeta station, ride to Gangani field, which is about 4-5km from the station.


There are a few private hotels for meals and rooms. The rates are pretty reasonable because the accommodation facility is equally sub-standard. However, it is bearable for a day or two.

My experience in pictures:

DAY 01

Located in West Midnapore. The Shilabati river is flowing through a 70ft-deep gorge and the adjoining places have taken various shapes due to river bank erosion. It’s extraordinary and delight for a mountain biking.

After treating our eye from the top for some time, we decided to get a closer look and explore the trails. The steps going down are carved into the side of the hill made of red laterite soil. I carried my bike down on my shoulders while Soumya decided to warm up his suspensions and so did Rohan. 

Though the place looked chic…but I still couldn’t understand why they both were so excited…what I could see was just dusty, rocky and loose soil slopes, eroded banks which looked like canyons meeting into a river… what are we supposed to do here ??

Anyway... the first to roll down was by Soumya and he made it look so damn easy…and so did Rohan 

….aaahhh must be easy…my turn!!

I took my bike uphill on my shoulders; slipped twice on the loose gravel soil; reached the top; put my bike down and turned…hmm … it's high... I remembered a couple of tips of Soumya... keep ur weight back all the time and don’t use us front brakes … at least not in my first try.
Wooo… I got on to the saddle and shit I didn’t get my seat post down… it was like a camel going down the hill and I crashed…aaaaaa  

My first lesson ... my saddle height was wrong…it had to come down as much as possible…weight was supposed to be back… by sitting back as far as possible... if required outside your saddle.

But my seat post wont go down completely… so I remained a mere spectator and the crew camera guy for most of the day. :-( However, Rohan was kind to lend me his bike for a couple of trail… that’s too kind... i wouldnot give anyone to do a downhill ... eeeee :-)

In the evening on our way back to guesthouse… I got my seat post cut by 3 inches and yeaaaa... my seat went all the way down. :-)

DAY 02

My bike was ready for next day. I even tried rolling down the stairs and I did fair enough and was huge confidence booster.

I felt more confident after cutting down saddle height. I was able to sit completely out of my saddle and with my weight back, was able to control my bike better. The brake pads were gripping better and in fact I was able to use both brakes with more confidence. 

I checked the lines and went down the trails which I missed on day 1. Rohan and Soumya were like PROs and meeting their skills was challenging for me.

Trekking to the top of the 300-400ft high rocky hills with the bikes and shredding down was fun now. But the trails are rocky, loose soiled… so gripping is challenging.

Wheelies, bunny hop, stoppies etc etc — if u good in these… it can help you in mountain biking as it gives you great control on your bike. And I can’t do any… so these are all on my next to do list. :-)

Soumya's knowledge and guidance and Rohan’s youthful enthusiasm and skill made the short getaway MTB trip a wonderful respite and a learning experience for me...

Wish to do this more and with more riders! :-)

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